Montessori once said: “An untidy desk is a sign of an untidy mind”. Yes, but I can always find everything. Oh, and can your co-workers find the things they need on your desk? The basic rules for a clean desk policy are: you should never have more on your desk than what you are actually working on; a cluttered desk is always distracting. And: if you leave your workplace for any length of time, nothing should be left behind on the desk. An employee was asked why he carted four stacks of files to his workplace every morning and he answered: Otherwise my boss can’t see how busy I am!
No ‘territorial marks’
Change management has to be able to combat this type of mindset (and many others as well) in order to implement the New Way of Working successfully. Another hard rule is: you may never personify the workplace. You may not do what, for example, dogs do – mark off your territory by ‘leaving your scent’. If you are in a restaurant, you won’t leave your things lying on the table until the next time you eat there, will you?
The fourth basic rule is: there is no such thing as a personal file. Everything that is produced at the office belongs to the company and all information on file should therefore in principle be accessible to the organisation. Yes, I know that some files are confidential. But they only become confidential after they have been marked as such. Confidentiality is usually grossly exaggerated and this should be taken into consideration in the change process. Only 0.5% of all files are really confidential, but nobody takes the trouble to look through files that are not marked ‘Confidential’. It may sound strange from a ‘storage specialist’: but a clean desk in a modern office leads to fewer cabinets and reduces the required amount of storage space, but it does demand better storage systems.
- If you decide to introduce a clean desk policy, you should also take the following guidelines into account:
Appoint a clutter manager. He/she can help you say farewell to ‘old and cherished’ personal effects without experiencing psychological problems.
- Organise a Junk Day:
- Throw away anything that you have not touched for a whole year or send it to the static archive. Keeping a file of ‘old memos’ is a waste of time, especially if they were written in the last century!
- Think about whether you should throw away anything that you have not touched in six months.
- Store everything else systematically.
- With job/department-based archives and depositories, you do not have personal files. You can only put things you are working on directly in your (mobile) briefcase. All files must also be kept in a central depository.
- Digitise as much as possible. If applicable, set up your own company knowledge bank (WIKI) to optimise remote access to information.
- Cabinet space should not be assigned personally, but should be allocated on the basis of jobs. If you are sick tomorrow, someone else has to be easily able to find the files they need.
- Provide lockers for personal effects. Lockers can also be fitted with a pigeon hole for (increasingly scarcer) hard copy post. No company files whatsoever may be placed or (even worse) stored in employees’ lockers.
An effective clean desk policy helps keep the rest of the office tidy and makes cleaning easier. It is a prerequisite for reducing the amount of square metres and serves as an invitation for people to sit together and to come into contact with each other.